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I recently sent out a call for additions to my FOS Timeline. I was looking for some of the early and influential institutional eprint archives but ready to add any landmark events that I didn't already list. For a week, I got several emails a day suggesting new items of all kinds. I'm pleased to say that the Timeline has now reached a new plateau, and I thank all those who wrote in with suggestions. Have a look. As always, I welcome additions and corrections.
The presentations from the Copyright and Digitisation Workshop (London, January 21) are now online.
Jessica Clark interviews Lawrence Lessig in the January 17 In These Times. Quoting Lessig: "[G]etting access to content and being able to share content, I think, is going to be increasingly important, and we just have to make sure that people who have a vision of the 20th century donít control the way creativity in the 21st century happens."
An editorial in Thursday's Economist argues for a 14 year copyright term, renewable once, the rule in force at the time of the adoption of the U.S. constitution. This victory for the public domain should be balanced by a victory for the content industry in the form of strong DRM backed by laws prohibiting its circumvention. After conceding that both sides in today's copyright wars have merit (piracy is harming the content industry, but the response is harming the public domain), the editorial makes this argument: "Over the past 50 years, as a result of heavy lobbying by content industries, copyright has grown to such ludicrous proportions that it now often inhibits rather than promotes the circulation of ideas....Starting from scratch today, no rational, disinterested lawmaker would agree to copyrights that extend to 70 years after an author's death, now the norm in the developed world....The flood of free content on the internet has shown that most creators do not need incentives that stretch across generations. To reward those who can attract a paying audience, and the firms that support them, much shorter copyrights would be enough."
Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, Napsterize Your Knowledge: Give To Receive, MarketingProfs.com, January 21, 2003. A call on knowledge workers to share their knowledge freely on the net. Nothing wrong here except the inane and inaccurate analogy to Napster. The authors should know that Napster is controversial because it disregards the consent of the author or creator. Why invite this controversy into the fundamentally different project of asking authors to consent to open access? Ben and Jackie: The problem is tactical. We have more to lose from misunderstanding than from well-informed opposition.
Yesterday the Alliance for Digital Progress was launched by a wide consortium of tech companies, including Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple. The alliance is specifically designed to oppose Fritz Hollings' CBDTPA, which has not yet been reintroduced in the new session of Congress, or to gather tech muscle and money to neutralize Hollywood muscle and money on technology and copyright issues. (However, its online statements suggest that it's more interested in keeping government out of the solution than assuring a solution maximallly friendly to consumers and digital freedom.) The ADP website contains a good deal of research and a web form for sending a message to one's Congressional delegation. More coverage.
In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Carlson interviews Steven J. Bell, library director of Philadelphia University. The interview follows up Bell's article in the January issue of American Libraries (only the TOC is free online). Bell argues that for student researchers, access to more information is not always better. Quantity of information can jeopardize the student's discovery and selection of quality information. Students are (still) thinking that if information is not free and online, or on the first page of search returns, then it's not worth finding.
(PS: I've often written to deplore this short-sighted attitude. The fact that we want free online access to full texts doesn't mean that we already have it. Limiting searches to free online sources can be wishful thinking that undermines the adequacy of a search. But having said that, let me also add that the expectation by the rising generation of researchers that full-text journal articles ought to be free and online is one of the greatest assets of the FOS movement. As Thomas Kuhn argued, doddering paradigms tend to topple not because someone produced sufficient evidence or a decisive experiment, but because the diehards died off and a new generation took their place. I welcome evidence that young researchers look first in free online sources. They should. That's by far the most convenient place to look. Our job is to put more information in that basket, not persuade researchers to start with less convenient sources. Students should understand that free online sources are not yet adequate in most fields. But the rest of us should understand that the best remedy is to make them adequate.)
Infotrieve has acquired the assets of TheScientificWorld, which went out of business last year. TSW was not an open-access publisher, but was innovative in taking advantage of the internet, for example by allowing peer-reviewed papers to appear in every relevant subject domain covered by the publisher rather than just one journal. It offered free searching of its conttents, free access to abstracts, and free current awareness alerts.
In a January 16 AP story, Anick Jesdanun reports that evolving file formats and closed standards threaten digital preservation. "The computer files may survive but the equipment to make sense of them might not." (Thanks to LIS News.)
A new one from me: Removing the Barriers to Research: An Introduction to Open Access for Librarians, forthcoming from College & Research Libraries News, 64 (February 2003) pp. 92-94, 113. The print version will be slightly abridged; this online version is unabridged. You're accustomed to seeing open access defended for the audience of researchers: as readers, they get easier access to the literature they need, and as authors, they get a larger audience and greater impact. But in this article I explain and defend open access for the audience of librarians. I argue that for librarians there are two overriding problems with the present journal system: intolerably high prices and intolerably extensive limitations on use created by licenses and DRM --or in short, the pricing crisis and what I call the permission crisis. I argue that open access will solve both problems efficiently, completely, and lawfully.
Dale Flecker, Digital Archiving: What is Involved? Educause Review, Jan-Feb 2003. On archiving ejournals for preservation, not self-archiving eprints for open access, although of course the two are completely compatible.
More on the DeCSS case....The Norwegian prosecutors have appealed Johansen's acquittal, which is permitted in Norway. More coverage.
InformeDesign offers free online human-written summaries of scholarly journal articles in the field of design. The articles it summarizes are seldom themselves free and online. Registered users may comment on the research summaries. The service is sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers, funded by corporations that sell products to designers (for example, paint and carpet), and hosted by the University of Minnesota. (Thanks to NewsBreaks.) (PS: This is a wonderful service for researchers. Does anyone know of similar services in any other field?)
According to a survey of librarians by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois, in the first year after September 11 FBI and police asked at least 545 libraries to provide borrowing records and about half the libraries complied with the requests without asking for a subpoena. (Thanks to LIS News.)
In the January 24 Chronicle of Higher Education, Brock Read reports that copyright law hampers university art departments in digitizing their slide collections for greater durability and flexibility in teaching.
If you'd like to champion Lawrence Lessig's proposal in yesterday's New York Times for shifting up to 98% of the copyrighted works over 50 years old into the public domain, then see his new FAQ on the idea. It will help answer objections and misunderstandings. He's now calling the proposal the Eric Eldred Act. Can we get a House member to submit it in the current session of Congress?
On December 11, Nature and the Alliance for Cellular Signalling launched the The Signalling Gateway, an ambitious and well-funded project to collect news and reviews and sponsor original research into the signalling pathways within a cell. The Gateway, its funders, and its participating scientists, are committed to making all the project's data and as much of the research software as possible, free of charge for other researchers. The AfCS has been committed to open access from the start. But by joining AfCS to sponsor the Gateway, Nature is launching its most significant experiment in open-access science to date. For more details, see FOSN for 2/14/02, Nature's story on the AfCS, its special suppment on cell signalling, or the December issue of the AfCS Newsletter.